The DSA Los Angeles Prison Abolition Working Group emphatically condemns the Los Angeles Police Department’s attempt to acquire drones for their Special Weapons and Tactics division (SWAT). While LAPD officials continue to insist that these drones would only be deployed for ‘special circumstances’ such as search and rescue, history clearly shows that military equipment acquired by the LAPD is predominantly used to occupy and oppress low-income communities of color in South LA, East LA, and Skid Row. In addition, President Trump's recent lift on the ban on military gear to local police has the community worried that drones are just the beginning. In order to be sure of LAPD's refusal to condone military police, they should attempt to distance themselves from Trump's much looser standards. Armed or not, drones are weapons of war-- to normalize them as a presence in our communities will further empower the most militarized police force in the nation, while enhancing a data collecting surveillance state that fosters an environment of fear, trauma, and violence. They are an instrument of the billion dollar military and prison industrial complex that devastates millions of lives across the globe, and which the LAPD plays a major role in here at home. Given their long record of corruption, misconduct, murder and ‘mission creep’, the LAPD does not have the trust of the community to acquire any more weapons or funding-- on the contrary, their behavior should be grounds for having far less.
This severe lack of trust was only worsened when, on August 22, 2017, the LAPD announced just one day prior that four community meetings would be held on August 23 to get public input on drones-- none of which were held in the communities that would clearly be most affected by them. Despite an overwhelming show of public opposition to drones at the four meetings held, the LAPD has indicated they are likely moving forward with their drone program. Once again, they have demonstrated a profound unwillingness to create opportunities for meaningful community input and oversight or listen to the many voices and concerns of our diverse Los Angeles community. This is but one more illustration of how the LAPD continues to operate as a white supremacist institution that unfailingly protects and serves the affluent, while criminalizing, incarcerating, and murdering the poor.
Amidst an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis, undocumented immigrants under attack from federal ICE agents, and the continued killing of young unarmed black and brown citizens at the hands of police officers, it is shameful to see over half of our city budget go to an unchecked LAPD seeking to add to its already bloated arsenal. For these reasons, the DSA Prison Abolition Working Group not only refuses to endorse the LAPD's deployment of drones for use against its populace, but explicitly and absolutely condemns it.